“Kefir is a new beverage here,” Thiago Cardoso, co-founder. "We were the first company to produce kombucha in Brazil and now we are expanding to kefir, which is a novelty in our country. It’s going to be a good challenge for us to explain to the customers what kefir is and the benefits.”
Thiago Cardoso co-founded BioZen with his sister, who first discovered the drink while living in Australia. Back in Brazil, she began making it for her own consumption. It was such a success with friends and family, she decided to scale up production.
“[We are] popularizing the consumption of truly healthy foods in an industry still dominated by artificial ones,” the company says.
In 2017, BioZen’s factory in Curitiba, Paraná, got the green light from Brazil’s food safety regulatory agency, ANVISA, to mass produce kombucha.
Its original kombucha range includes red fruit with hibiscus; apple with cinnamon; lemon with pineapple; and red grape with ginger. The kefir products, launched at BioBrazil in Sao Paolo last week, include blackberry and white grape with lemongrass.
'A low-calorie drink with the benefits of the probiotics'
The two products have a similar taste, Cardoso said, but while kombucha is tea fermented with a symbiotic colony of bacteria and yeast (SCOBY), kefir uses fruit juice as a base and ‘kefir grains’ as the starter culture. (Dairy-based kefir uses milk as a base).
“Nutritionists say it’s not good to always consume the same family of probiotics, it’s good to change and that’s why we work with different families of probiotics [for the kombucha and kefir].”
Although Brazil’s regulatory framework does not permit companies to use the term probiotic on-pack or make health claims, Cardoso said this has not been an obstacle for BioZen.
“We have to sell like a regular soft drink [but] it’s not a barrier because people know about kombucha from the US and other countries. They look for kombucha and the benefits and they know how good it is for their health.”
The fermentation cultures also consume the sugar and fructose in the base liquid, meaning the final products are low-sugar.
“They are good alternatives to sodas and other regular drinks, even juices because even these contain a lot of fructose, and [therefore] a lot of calories. Kombucha is a low-calorie drink with the benefits of the probiotics.”
Reaching male consumers
Around 95% of BioZen’s consumer base is made of women and health-conscious individuals. but the company is trying to reach men as well.
“They have to know that kombucha is not just for girls. It’s not just for people who want to lose weight. There is this misconception. It’s good for health, gut health and the benefits are for everyone.”
Cardoso said one of the biggest barriers to expansion the company faces is transportation.
All its products are unpasteurized in order to keep the ‘good bacteria’ alive, and they must be kept refrigerated or they will continue to ferment.
Transporting refrigerated products is expensive in Brazil due to the country’s vast distances.